These 17 ducklings have spent the first week of their lives being pampered by the Reed family in Chippenham.

The mother mallard returned to the same garden she has had her litter for the last two years.

Bill Reed, 70, and his wife Sue, 65, who live in the church flat by St Andrew’s on Market Place, feed the ducklings three times a day with chick crumb from the pet shop, though the young birds also love to nibble on their carrot seeds which are just starting to sprout.

Mrs Reed said: “The mum arrived a few weeks ago and nested in the thick clematis on the shed roof.

“The ducklings dropped down from the nest last Thursday onto the patio below; some fell on their backs with their legs in the air. It’s lovely to have them back again.

“They’re already running towards me when I go out to feed them. They’ll soon find a snail, that was fun when they went chasing after one last year. They go incredibly quickly.”

The ducklings like to sit in the sun a few feet away from the Reeds’ pet tortoise Phil, who is unperturbed by the new additions to the garden.

Mrs Reed said that, unlke last time, the drake had also been a frequent visitor - accompanied by another female. “The mother did bite her neck the other day but they do seem to be friends,” she said.

Ducks are generally monogamous, although these bonds only last one breeding season.

When the ducklings are three weeks old the Reeds will guide them over to the River Avon to live.